What Do New Legal Protections for Cannabis Users Mean for Businesses?

As the federal government moves slowly on the issue of rescheduling cannabis or taking action on decriminalization, states have been left to take matters into their own hands. With just a small handful of states maintaining total prohibition of cannabis, the majority of employers in the nation now face an unusual scenario: employee drug screening remains an important process, but positives for THC/marijuana derivatives are not always a clear-cut reason for denying a job. 

In fact, more states, counties, and even individual cities have begun passing legislation that changes how employers may interpret the results of a drug screening. In Washington state, for example, a legislative effort is underway to protect workers who smoke marijuana or use other forms of the substance out of work hours. Specifying "prior use" and leaving open the option to deny people based on active intoxication, the law would prohibit firing people or rescinding a job offer because of a positive marijuana test.

This is just one part of a much larger trend throughout the country. In 2019, New York City removed marijuana from the list of permissible types of drug tests. In Nevada, denying a job based on a failed drug test is illegal. It is even possible that soon marijuana use could continue despite a security clearance. Many other states and local jurisdictions are ensuring that those who use marijuana in a legal capacity cannot be punished for it at work, provided they’re not intoxicated on the job. Advocates say that this brings the laws in line with the general thinking on alcohol use by workers.

For employers, this patchwork landscape creates a confusing and potentially stressful situation. No one wants to be on the receiving end of a hiring discrimination lawsuit, just as no business owner wants to endanger the public or other workers by hiring someone who may work under the influence. Therefore, thinking proactively about how to develop a better policy for today is important.

Reviewing the regulations that currently apply to your business is an important step. Even if you do not face restraints on adjudicating marijuana drug test results, you may still wish to reconsider whether it is a disqualifying factor. You should also stay current on any potential law changes that could affect your business.

Working with the right third-party reporting agency to help you handle the drug test and background check policy is also a smart move. It's your screening partner's job to remain aware of changing rules and regulations, especially in the areas where their clients operate. Consider a conversation with your provider about building a better, more compliant drug testing policy that protects your business. By collaborating and involving professional experience in the process, you can preserve the value of drug testing without engaging in unfair practices or discrimination.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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